TIFTON -- When Hallie Willis and Mary Charles Pfister were in Patricia Dunn's kindergarten class at Len Lastinger Primary School, they probably never imagined that they would become such close friends and share the stage at their graduation from Tift County High School.

Willis, who was named valedictorian of this year's graduating class, and Pfister, who was named salutatorian, will both give speeches at the graduation ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday at Brodie Field.

"The fact that we are such good friends makes this honor even more special for us," Pfister said. "We get to share this experience at graduation, which makes it more meaningful and fun."

Willis, the daughter of Vernon and Andrea Willis, said she was extremely honored to be named valedictorian.

"Being valedictorian was a goal I set for myself in ninth grade," she said. "I feel I've worked hard to reach that goal, and I am glad I achieved it."

Willis will attend Georgia Tech in the fall, where she will major in biomedical engineering. She also plans to attend medical school. Willis, who is very interested in health and wellness, would like to become a bariatrician, a specialist who focuses on the treatment of eating disorders, metabolic diseases and weight control.

"I believe that our nation needs a better perspective on health," Willis said. "Obesity has become a serious problem in our country. I want to become involved so that I can make a difference and influence the way people view health. Since I am very people-oriented, I would like to have an office where I can work with my patients and monitor their progress."

Willis already plays an active role in the field of health and wellness. She is an aerobics instructor at Body Works, and she works at Howard's Center for Women's Health.

Extracurricular activities are also important to Willis, who believes in being involved in as many activities as she can. Some of her high school activities included show choir, student council president, co-captain of the academic team, literary team -- extemporaneous speech and Governor's Honors -- communicative arts participant. She is also a member of First Baptist Church.

"I think it is very important for students to be involved in as many activities as they can without overloading themselves," Willis said. "I would advise incoming high school freshmen to work hard for their grades, to be attentive in class and to budget their time wisely. But I would also encourage them to meet people and have fun. They should not close any doors because they only get to experience high school once."

In recognition of her achievements, Willis received the President's Scholarship from Georgia Tech and the Exchange Club Youth of the Year Scholarship.

Unlike Willis, who set a personal goal to become valedictorian, Pfister said she was not expecting to be named salutatorian.

"I always worked hard to earn the best grades I could, to achieve my personal best," Pfister said. "But it's a great feeling to know that my personal best was good enough to earn such a prestigious honor. I think it was even more exciting for me because I was not expecting it."

Pfister, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Chip Pfister, will attend a special four-week program at the University of Georgia (UGA) in early July. The program, which is called the Freshman College Summer Experience, helps prepare incoming freshmen for college and gives them an opportunity to get a head start, making the transition from high school to college easier.

"I wanted to participate in the summer experience program so that I can feel a little bit ahead of the game when all of the students come to campus in the fall," Pfister said. "I haven't decided on a major yet because I want to keep my options open and explore different areas of interest. I have been leaning toward business or the medical field, though."

Pfister said the key to getting good grades and participating in a lot of activities is time management.

"I think students just have to find a balance," she said. "They also need to stay focused on what they are doing at the time. They need to know their limits. But students should definitely not be afraid to get involved because they are worried about their grades. They can do both. I did, and I don't regret being so involved because it made high school special for me."

Some of Pfister's high school extracurricular activities included football and competition cheerleader, varsity soccer, co-captain of varsity soccer, All-State cheerleader, All-Region soccer, show choir, All-State chorus and literary team -- women's trio division. She is also a member of First United Methodist Church, where she plays basketball.

Pfister is the recipient of the Junior Miss Scholarship and the Charter Scholarship from UGA.

Both Willis and Pfister received the Showmanship Award and the Director's Award for show choir. They also received scholarships for being named valedictorian and salutatorian of their graduating class.

"One of the things I'll miss most about high school is performing with the show choir," Willis said. "That's one of my favorite memories. I'll also miss all the friends I've made and all of my teachers from this year."

"I'll miss being involved in athletics and show choir," Pfister added. "This year was especially fun because the whole school united to support the boys' basketball team in the state championship. I also had a lot of fun at the Homecoming pep rally because there was so much school spirit and student involvement."

To contact reporter Lisa A. Lewis, call 382-4321, ext. 207.

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